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Celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation: Franklin Pierce



Franklin Pierce was a “dough boy,” a Northerner supporting the Southern position on slavery. A former New Hampshire legislator, Mexican War officer and close friend of Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, Pierce was the compromise candidate on the 48th ballot of the 1852 Democratic Convention.

He vigorously enforced the Fugitive Slave Act and oversaw the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, negating the Missouri Compromise. Outrage, threats and passions inspired by admitting Kansas as a slave state caused Pierce to hire a full-time bodyguard – the first president to do so.

1835: (In New Hampshire) “not one in a hundred (voters) who does not entertain the most sacred regard for the rights of their Southern (slaveowning) brethren – nay not one in five hundred who would not have those rights protected at any and every hazard. There is not the slightest disposition to interfere with any rights secured by the constitution.”

1838: “Would any man here abridge the liberty of speech, or assail the freedom of the press? I think not… I oppose the Abolitionists, for the very reason that I entertain a sacred regard for these in common with all other rights secured by the Constitution… the citizen of New Hampshire is no more responsible, morally or politically for the existence and continuance of this domestic institution (Slavery) in Virginia or Maryland, than he would be for the existence of any similar institutions in France or Persia. Why? Because these are matters over which the States…retained the sole and exclusive control, and for which they are alone responsible… It is admitted that domestic slavery exists here (Washington, DC) in its mildest form. That part of the population are bound together by friendship and the nearer relations of life. They are attached to the families in which they have lived from childhood. They are comfortably provided for, and apparently contented.”

1853: “I believe that involuntary servitude as it exists in different states of this Confederacy, is recognized by the constitution. I believe that it stands like any other admitted right, and that the states where it exists are entitled to efficient remedies to enforce the constitutional provisions…. I fervently hope that the question is at test, and that no sectional or ambitious or fanatical excitement may again threaten the durability of our institutions.” (inaugural address)

1855: “If the passionate rage of fanaticism and partisan spirit did not force the fact upon our attention, it would be difficult to believe that any considerable portion of the people of this enlightened country could have so surrendered themselves to a fanatical devotion to the supposed interests of the relatively few Africans in the United States to totally abandon and disregard the interests of 25,000,000 Americans.” (3.6 million slaves, 1850 census)

For the years 2012-2013, Our Story, Inc. will be be celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Project and its legacy in Nevada. This article is part of a series to be published during that time. The first part of the series covers the presidencies leading up to Lincoln in order to review national policy and experience leading to rmancipation. Please feel free to circulate and share (credited), comment or submit your own articles.

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